I can't remember the last time it rained. A tad before Memorial day the nighttime temperatures dipped to 35. The previous week the rain gauge filled up over the 2 inch mark. The grass along the edge of the road is tan instead of green. New seed I planted in divots made by the township plow is puce green.
Days begin at 5 or 5:30 if I'm lazy. This morning, I suit up in black sweat pants and a black hooded sweatshirt. The kitchen thermometer says 70. I don't bother with insect repellent. Tiny gnats feast on my forehead at the line where I pulled the drawstring for the hood tight. I look like a teenager with a bad case of acne.
The garden plots lie in a front field across the road from the house. There are two water spigots on the front and side of the house with specially rigged valves to siphon water out in case of a sudden cold snap here in the sub-arctic. That means running water lines across the road, coiling and uncoiling expensive, high quality hose so that farmers rolling down our lane don't trash the hose. An older, tougher hose, non-bendable in cool weather lies on old carpet I spread on the gravel after sweeping the road free of sharp rocks that tractor tires, corn planters, high draw spray wagons and spring toothed plows can't cut.
An hour and a half of precision watering, a trip to the next town for an appointment and back to follow up with sips for thirsty planters, baby herb plants and newly seeded plots takes me past noon. I skipped breakfast and gulp 44 ounces of heavily iced diet Mountain Dew between moving drip lines further into the largest potato patch. The caffeine gets me moving around the front field pulling stakes, rolling up twine, performing small weeding tasks, crushing eggs shells for pepper plants which I neglected when first planted. It's an experiment. The tomato plants have told me they like the calcium and other trace minerals.
Ninety six on the north side of the house drives me inside. I practice ways of cussing without swearing. Jesus, Joseph and Mary. Lord have mercy. What the Sam Hill. Sweat stains on my shirt look like the spray bottle marks they use on actors in action movies who haven't broken a sweat in years. After lunch, my clothes are still damp. I ponder calling it a day and having a light beer and reading a new detective novel. Instead I get out a half gallon box of Bunny Tracks and even up the edges of the cardboard container. My wife, the big dipper, scoops out the center. I'll catch hell for that remark. "Honey, it's part of my poetic license." In the doctor's office I tell the assistant who takes my blood pressure that in business I take my wife along as a body guard. I reel off stats about her past life as a kick boxing teacher and use my hand as a visual.
Holding up my hand like a cop stopping traffic, I say,"Large target". Then I turn the palm sideways and repeat, "Thin target." It's one of the things she taught me, besides "Keep your cotton picking mouth shut, you fool." I tend to get mouthy.
In the extreme heat two robins find energy to fight right in front of the kitchen window giving more credence to their Latin name turdis migratorius. Dawn uses the same epithet leaving out the migratorius when I tickle her feet or reach over the shower door when she's washing her hair. After the shriek, "You turd" booms off the small bathroom ceiling.
The dog follows me every where. She has established vantage points to keep an eye on me from under my truck, in the shade of a forty foot Norway pine, on the cool garage slab and when these aren't available she'll run along my side, tongue lolling. The cat spends most of his time lurking unless I'm sitting on a lawn chair playing porch monkey in the garage. Migratory chipping sparrows play chicken with him on the gravel apron, pretending not to care as they hop along looking for seeds and treats in the stones.
The electric utility builds a new facility in Westby, a sprawling one story office complex. When the electricity to the barn goes off, I discover a previous knob ran above-ground Romex from the box on the pole to a breaker panel on the right side of the storm door in the barn. I call an electrician who contacts the electric company. I learn that it'll cost me close to $300 bucks to have them come out and install a new pedestal and box for breakers and connections. That's the charge for the empty equipment. The electrician opens the old panel on the pole and shows me where water seeps in and wasps nest behind old fashioned cardboard tube fuses. I decide to forgo the cost and live without lights in the barn.
I do not want to fund another sprawling building complex for the utility. I set the thermostat for 78 and hear the central air kick in frequently. It reminds me of a taxi meter. At night we run a ceiling fan in the bedroom to stir the air and create a gentle breeze.
Mulched broccoli plants collapse their leaves on the dirt in the heat, russet potatoes start to wilt at the top, the sky is a slate blue gray color and the peonies that line the drive are ready to burst into color and then be smashed to the ground in a June storm. It happens every year.
Lessons from Alabama
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